Tangled Web UK Review November 2000
A Trust Betrayed by
pbk out November 00
Candace Robb is well-known for her Owen Archer series of historical mysteries, but A Trust Betrayed is the first in her new line of Scottish ‘hist-mysts’.
In fact, it seems really like a trailer for the series, as it comes to an indeterminate end which can only be a teaser for the continuing exploits of her new heroine, Margaret Kerr.
The book is set in 1297, at the time of King Edward I, the ‘Hammer of the Scots’, who ravished north of the Border after he had mutilated the Welsh a few years earlier.
A complex situation existed for the succession to the Scottish throne, on which Edward had installed John Balliol as a puppet. In the wings were the Comyns, Robert Bruce and William Wallace, but Candice Robb’s tale concerns a young wife from Perth, who is seeking her rather off-handed husband, a merchant who has vanished. Her cousin goes to Edinburgh to search for him and ends up murdered. Margaret Kerr travels to the capital and forces herself on her uncle who runs a dubious tavern in the High Street.
The writing is as impeccable as is expected from Candace Robb, but this first in the series – maybe just a warm-up volume – is hardly exciting. The atmosphere of late thirteenth century Scotland is captured perfectly, but it seems a pretty dismal place and the overall tenor of the book is a bit depressing. The whole story is in very tight compass, both of time and space. Virtually all the action takes place over a few hundred yards in the tiny city that was Edinburg h at that time and occupies a few days, during which it never seems to stop raining! The squalor of living conditions, the puddles on earth floors, the leaking thatch and the ever-damp clothing are a counterpoint to a string of violent deaths as Margaret trudges about, trying to find clues to her husband's disappearance – which is never properly solved in this book, so wait for the next in the series!
I make no complaint that the author is heavy on the history, with a preliminary ‘Historical Note', a list of Further Reading at the end and several maps and a Glossary. I’m all for as much authenticity as possible and it is obvious that Ms. Robb has been strenuously boning up on her Scottish Wars of Independence.
I look forward to the next in this series, if only to find out what happens next, as the incompleteness of this story was a little disappointing.
- Author of the highly acclaimed Crowner John series set in Medieval Devon)